Since 2009, trade fairs have brought $14.1 million in new sales to USAID-supported companies based in Serbia’s South and Sandzak regions. For these two regions, among Serbia’s most economically disadvantaged, the returns helped companies survive the economic crisis, enter export markets, and create jobs. Yet, USAID recognized that one-time sales would not ensure long-term company stability nor create the market diversity and growing profits to protect them and the regions from economic volatility.
Therefore, as part of its Economic Security Project, USAID developed trade missions to turn the benefits from these international trade fairs into a permanent market presence and long-term profits. Trade missions pre-arrange meetings between managers and 10-20 potential buyers before each trade fair. Company managers and owners also meet with Serbian Embassy and Chamber of Commerce dignitaries who, in turn, prepare meetings between the companies and the host country’s government and private sector representatives. As a result, the companies arrive at the trade fair with some contracts already in negotiation with new partners, and their booths see more visits from pre-identified businesses.
Taking advantage of trade missions in this way has brought exceptional results. USAID developed the trade missions after its project apparel manufacturers negotiated $150,000 in new contracts at a 2010 German trade fair—a brand-new market for the Sandzak-based textile industry—and spent a year working to realize the contracts. In contrast, after a successful 2011 trade mission to Poland, the companies attended Poland’s most important fashion fair and, through early contacts and discussions, concluded $160,000 in first-time sales to Poland during the fair. Returning to the country in September 2012, Serbian apparel companies concluded sales of nearly $100,000 for the rest of the year and opened negotiations for nearly $700,000 in sales for 2013.
"Today, as a result of our participation in USAID's Economic Security Project, we are looking at lucrative export deals to Germany, Poland, Russia and Belarus. We could have never accessed these markets on our own, ' said Mirsad Hadzimuratovic, owner of Bros Jeans from Novi Pazar in southwest Serbia.
Trade mission visits to Moscow helped Sandzak apparel manufacturers invest their own resources to open a showroom and distribution center in Russia. These companies saw $820,000 in new sales after the 2012 trade fair, compared to $135,000 in sales from 2009’s trade fair. Now, with their permanent presence in the Russian market, the companies anticipate $4 million in annual sales.
The Economic Security Project, which supported manufacturers from Serbia's poorest regions, ended in March 2013.
Last updated: October 29, 2013